OTTUMWA — You may find the idea questionable: Send your credit card number to Target's data security partner so they can store it in a huge database of credit card info.
"Yes ... I think everybody is a little reticent," Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller acknowledged when asked by the Courier about this new plan.
Yet the goal of the program, announced during an Iowa press conference Tuesday, is to prevent the theft of credit card information and the use of that information to make purchases with a consumer's card. State attorneys general have worked with Target, which has agreed to provide the service free for a year to consumers who used a card at Target between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15. There will not, at the end of the year, be an automatic extension added to the security membership, Miller assured residents.
As recently as Friday, Target revealed that millions of records had been accessed, credit card and debit card information stolen, which included account numbers, consumer names, phone numbers and, warned Miller, PIN numbers.
Citizens may hesitate about sending their information to anyone right now, but this time it's a good idea, Miller said.
"Iowans have a lot of common sense," he said. "Experian’s ProtectMyID ... is very unlikely to have a breach. We're [recommending Iowans] go ahead and do this."
To sign up, send an email or call Target toll free. They'll provide details.
"ProtectMyID provides a copy of a credit report, daily credit monitoring ... [credit card] theft insurance," the attorney general said.
He explained the monitoring as a lookout for patterns that don't fit the consumer's normal behavior. In that case, they will consult with the member. Target shoppers (any Target shopper, not just those who used a credit card on the specific dates) have until April to sign up.
"We're advising them to ... take advantage of the free credit monitoring system ... much sooner," said Miller.
There are a couple other moves the AG is suggesting.
"We advise those consumers change their PIN number. Another thing we would strongly advise is to monitor their credit card bill very closely, each item. We caution people about the thinking, 'Oh, it's only $5. I won't worry about it.' Do worry about it."
The reasons include the way fraud operators work: Before they make a big move, they'll test the waters with a small purchase. Or 12 small purchases which add up every year. Other fraud operators, when they see a big situation like the Target data breach, will "fish for information," posing as someone from Target calling to help deal with the situation. Just remember, Target may call or email or snail mail shoppers to give them information but typically aren't doing so to request information.
As for signing up for this security program, just do it, Miller said. First, contact Target by email to tell them you want to sign up. They'll tell you what to do next. If email isn't available to a consumer, there should be a way to sign up by phone. Miller said, "If they don't have that [opiton], we'll push for that."
So how many Iowans were impacted by this data breach? They don't know yet. But their rule of thumb is that Iowa is 1 percent of the nation. So if 70 million people were affected nationally, then, theoretically, 700,000 Iowa residents may have been affected, which, wherever you live in the state, equals roughly one of every five residents.
The online version for sending in your name and email with a request for a code and instructions is creditmonitoring.target.com. The phone number to call is 866-852-8680.
— Reporter Mark Newman is on Twitter @couriermark